By Mashudu Netsianda
A senior police officer in Bulawayo who is accused of stealing seven different types of guns from the armoury has approached the High Court seeking bail pending trial.
Manatsa Matibe (43), who is the officer in charge of the Bulawayo Provincial Police Armoury at ZRP Ross Camp, was allegedly found in possession of an 9mm FN browning pistol, 9mm Norinco pistol, Beretta pistol 6.35mm, Webley and Scott pistols 6.35mm, Unique pistol 6.35mm and a BSA Krico rifle .22.
The firearms, which are privately owned, were lodged at the Bulawayo Provincial Armoury for safe keeping.
Matibe is facing charges of theft and defeating or obstructing the course of justice. He has been remanded in custody to April 16.
In his bail statement, Matibe, through his lawyers Tanaka Law Chambers, said there were no compelling reasons justifying his continued detention, arguing that there was nothing linking him to the theft of the firearms.
Matibe said he only transferred the firearms to a different station and they were then allegedly stolen from the other camp.
“I merely transferred the firearms to a different station where they were then allegedly stolen, but what remains a mystery is how they were stolen. On the aspect of defeating the course of justice, it is fallacious for the simple reason that I completed a return which is a requirement whenever transferring firearms,” he said.
Matibe said the assertion that he would interfere with State witnesses if granted bail was baseless.
“A congruent reason as to why the investigating officer is of the view that the applicant will eliminate the witnesses has not been put forward, that is the investigating officer’s speculation and consequently his bald statement can’t be taken to be a compelling reason. The applicant has not demonstrated that he will abscond, neither has he exhibited the propensity to interfere with witnesses if granted bail,” argued Matibe’s lawyers.
Matibe offered to pay a security deposit of RTGS$200 bail with the Registrar of the High Court and adhere to stipulated conditions if released on bail.
In papers before the court, it is alleged that on March 23, Matibe stole privately owned firearms from the Bulawayo provincial armoury.
The weapons were lodged at the armoury for safekeeping. He allegedly took the guns to the Matabeleland North provincial police armoury.
After learning of the arrest of his three colleagues stationed at Matabeleland North provincial police armoury in connection with the firearms, Matibe raised a false issue voucher to cover up for the charges levelled against his accomplices.
His accomplices David Fugao, who is the Officer-in-Charge of the Matabeleland North Provincial Armoury, Wonder Tawanda Karamba (33), Francis Chaterera (39), who are both stationed at the armoury, have since appeared in court facing similar charges and they are in custody.
The three police officers were arrested two weeks ago after they were found with 15 different types of guns, more than 180 live rounds of ammunition and an assortment of weaponry, which was not accounted for by the force.
Detectives from the homicide section received information that there were suspicious movements of firearms at the armoury.
It was stated that through investigations, detectives found out that some members of the police were removing firearms that are subject to a handover-takeover from the armoury to a backyard room.
The discovery followed the arrest of Fugao, after he was implicated by a suspected armed robber, Ame Mpala, who was arrested with an AK-47 rifle along the Bulawayo-Beitbridge Road.
When detectives arrived at the armoury, they requested that it be opened and a search was conducted in the presence of Karamba and Chaterera.
It was discovered that there were several firearms that had been stored in the armoury that did not match those recorded in official documents. Some of the guns listed included 22 Birmingham Sport Company rifle, 12 Bore Winchester shotgun, 22 Bruno rifle, 22 Mauser long rifle, 303 Era rifle, 22 Kregskorte rifle, 22 Winchester rifle and 22 revolver.
On the same day at around 7PM, detectives received a tip-off informing them that there was a suspicious package that had been stashed at a house in Thorngrove suburb.
When the house was searched, the detectives found an assortment of weapons and ammunition.
Some of the weapons found at the house included a Noringo pistol, Vsor Pistol, FN pistol, Special Renato gamba revolver, 22 Astra revolver, 6.35mm Berreta pistol and 6.35mm automatic pistol. The detectives interrogated the owner of the house, Delighted Chingoyori, who revealed that Karamba had left the firearms at her house. The Chronicle.